AMAZING LOVE, HOW CAN IT BE!

John 15:9 is one of my favorite be-amazed-passages-of-the-Bible

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

What a comparison! We are loved exactly as God the Father loves God the Son

How does the Father love the Son?

It is beyond our comprehension, but whatever it entails – only God is capable of it. This means we are loved constantly, inexhaustibly and beyond description.

If we are loved as the Father loves the Son, then it is impossible for us to be loved more

Why don’t we always feel this loved?

1.  We really don’t understand love all that well

We equate love with kindness which means we focus on how God is meeting our immediate comforts. God is concerned with more than just our present comforts; He is committed to working on our character and eternal good. 

If we equate love with kindness, we will doubt God’s love when life is hard. Don’t look for God to imitate our patterns of loving

2.  We tend to judge love by how we feel

We are not told pursue feeling loved.  That leads to craving emotional experiences instead of learning to trust God’s faithfulness.

We are commanded to believe God when He says that He loves us. God’s actions have proven the depth of His love for us

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” I John 3:1

 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 

 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” I John 4:9 

3.  We need to separate God’s love for us from our unlovableness

If you think, ‘I can’t see why God would love me’, that’s good. Anyone who can see why God should love them – is deceived. God loves us out of his character, not because of ours

God loved YOU at your worst!

God loves YOU with His best!

Jesus tells us to “abide” in his love

To abide means to remain in a particular condition. Jesus is not saying it’s up to us to keep God’s love for us; he is urging us to keep living according to the reality of God’s love for us

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.17.17

 ‘What Hope are you Buying’

 

1 Peter 1:3-9   

 

Easter offers a “living” hope (v3)

Every hope your soul can lift up is merely a wishing hope

We cannot guarantee that our hopes will be obtained, or kept

Biblical hope is different, it’s knowing rather than wishing

Easter’s hope is given by Jesus Christ who is v3 the ‘Lord’

Easter’s hope is guaranteed by Jesus Christ who was ‘raised’

The Apostle Peter calls this a ‘living hope’

It cannot wither, or die, because (v5) the ‘power’ of God keeps it

You cannot match that, the world cannot match it, and human religion cannot match it

What is this living hope?

Jesus who died on a cross to pay for our sin, was raised in victory over our sin and death

Those who trust in Christ, (v1) are born again:  God does something we don’t!

v4 our new life includes an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading

v3 This hope is not to those who deserve it, but according to God’s Mercy

Right now this mercy is ready for anyone in any condition  

     “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”  Romans 10:13

Are you willing to acknowledge you need to be saved? 

Is God giving you faith to believe that Jesus is the One who saves?

Will you submit to call on him:  Jesus, forgive me and have my life

 

The hope of Easter can withstand a messy world 

Disappointments, suffering, conflict and loss are inescapable (vs 6-7)

The Bible doesn’t try to claim that faith will remove all of them

Bible does claim that hope in Christ can stand up to all of them

God is in every difficulty, with the same intensity he had in saving us

God is purposeful in every trial, regardless of people’s intention, God causes it to be for our good

God tells us how it ends:  Christ victoriously returns to glorify his people

Life is hard, heartaches are real, but our joy remains

Nothing can diminish hope that is imperishable – undefiled – unfading

If our trust is in Christ, it’s impossible to be hopeless

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us” Romans 5:5

The promises we have in Christ are both unchanging, and glorious

When we feel hopeless, it’s because we are not fully trusting Christ

Our hope can actually increase with our difficulties,

Trials freshly remind us that our hopes belong in Christ alone

 

Resurrection hope keeps us in anticipation (vs 8-9)

The best is always yet to come

Christ whom we love above all else, is ‘preparing a place for us’

Our aging body will be raised new, and our soul will be made complete

It is coming!  Life that’s whole and joy that is undisturbed

We have hope now, but its greatest fulfillment is still ahead

Our hope is in Christ, so it is fulfilled (v7) when he is revealed

Do you love Christ?  You will be with him, that’s anticipation!

 

Are your hopes merely wishes?  Does your joy survive the battering of life?

Christ is alive to give you hope that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading

 

GOOD FRIDAY PREPARATION

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To help lead our thoughts about the sacrifice Christ made to pay the price for our sin; I am sharing the following thoughts from the Puritan scholar, William Ames. He describes the death of Christ for sinners with poignancy and crispness of language.

The death of Christ is the last act of his humiliation in which he underwent extreme, horrible, and most acute pains for the sins of men. His death included the loss of conscious enjoyment of God; the tasting of the wrath of God; with sadness, fear, and dread in agony.

He experienced being forsaken, denied, and betrayed by his most intimate disciples; false accusations and injustice; mocking, whipping, and crucifixion; the forsaking of him by His Father; and the full consciousness of Gods judgment on man’s sins.

Christ’s humiliation was then completed by the expiration of his soul in greatest torment and pain of body, burial, and continuation under death for three days.

From “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones

WHAT WAS THE GREAT BURDEN OF THE CROSS?

“Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46

 

What was the great burden of the cross?

1.  We tend to focus on the physical suffering

The burden of the cross went far beyond physical pain. It was a horrible death, but thousands endured that pain

2.  Jesus suffering went beyond emotional and mental stress

Jesus knew the Old Testament prophecies that describing his death.  Imagine knowing for years you would be tortured to death!

We see weight of this burden in Gethsemane, when Jesus said “my soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death”

3.  The great cost of the cross was to be “forsaken” by the Father

  • Jesus had been silent during the injustice of His trial
  • He had not cried out when they horribly beat Him
  • When they nailed his hands and feet he said “Father forgive them”
  • As the agony grew he spoke words of mercy to a thief beside Him

But when our sin was placed upon him, then Jesus cried out in chilling anguish

 

How was Jesus “forsaken” by the Father?

We should first clarify what it does not mean

Jesus was not abandoned, because his sacrifice was accepted by the Father

The love of the Father not withdrawn. Jesus said  “My Father loves me because I lay down my life” (John 10:17)

1.  Jesus was “forsaken” by when the Father punished him without mercy (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Jesus became responsible for our sin as if he committed them 2 Cor 5:21  Gal 3:13

The Father did not withhold any wrath, but punished Jesus fully for our sin

God forgives people, not sin! Every sin will receive its due penalty, either on us or on Jesus

2.  Jesus was “forsaken” by the Father withdrawing his comfort

Holy God could not comfort his son, when he “became sin”

It is hard for us to grasp what it meant for Christ to be “forsaken”

  • We cannot comprehend the wrath that fell (praise God that in Christ, we never will!)
  • We cannot fathom the shame our collective guilt was to one so pure
  • We cannot appreciate what it meant for Jesus who had loved the Father with all his soul, to have him turn away

God the Son, was punished by God the Father, in order to save those who had rejected them both

 

Why is it important we know the true burden of cross?

1.  So we will know the greatest burden that could be ours

No suffering on earth can compare to being forsaken by God. Nothing could be worse than to face God bearing the guilt of our sin

 

2.  So we will recognize how committed God is to punishing all sin

If God did not spare his Son when the guilt of others was upon him, he will not spare those who will come before him bearing their own guilt

Why does God hate sin so deeply?

  • It corrupts what he created ‘good’
  • It separates us from him
  • It turns those he had loved from eternity into his enemy

3.  So we will know the greatness of the sacrifice made for us

Christ was willing to endure the presence of our sin on Himself

If there is no greater burden than than to be forsaken by God, then there is no greater proof of his love than to have Jesus take our place

We cry want God to prove himself by intervening in our temporal affairs, neglecting how he has proven himself by intervening in our eternal affairs

Christ cried out “My God, why have you forsaken me” – so we would never have to

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.10.17

Marriage & the Gift of Singleness

 

by Paul Long

1 Corinthians 7:1-9, 36-40

 

Paul has addressed some serious issues in the Corinthian church.  In chapter 5 he had to correct the issue of immorality.  In chapter 6 he had to address members of the church participating in temple feasts involving prostitutes. 

The culture of Corinth was far away from God’s original design and intent for sex and marriage.

As we look at chapter 7 we will see how some in the church were responding to these cultural issues of sexuality and immorality.

Paul is responding to a letter that he had received from the Corinthian church  vs 1

“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” Here Paul is quoting something that they had written in their letter.  This not something Paul is saying, rather it is a position that some in the church had arrived at. 

Considering the immorality of the culture they lived in and the struggles some of the other church members had faced, the conclusion they came to was that abstinence in all contexts was good. 

This was a pendulum swing too far in the wrong direction.

Paul will address this by expounding on the gift of marriage and sexual relations within marriage, he will remind husbands and wives of the rights and responsibilities in marriage, and caution them of the dangers of abstinence in marriage.

If married couples were expected to abstain from sex there would be a danger for them to struggle with self-control and fall into temptation and sexual immorality  vs 2 & 5

Because of these dangers – “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”   Paul echoes back to God’s original intent in marriage. Genesis 2:18-24

Marriage is the only appropriate sexual outlet in God’s design and especially for the Christian seeking to please Him.

Within the context of marriage two have become one flesh and each has surrendered his/her own rights to the other  vs 3

The husband has an obligation to meet his wife’s needs, and the wife has an obligation to meet her husband’s needs. 

Love in marriage is giving oneself away for the good of the other.

Seeking to love and serve our spouse even when we don’t feel like it is hard work. 

Marriage exposes our pride and selfishness.

Our marriages must be filled with grace and forgiveness. 

Where there is not love, grace and forgiveness – marriages get into trouble.

In vs 5 Paul gives a strong command, “Do not deprive one another…” 

To deprive is to defraud another of a right that is owed to them.

One spouse may not selfishly disregard the other’s needs. Husbands and wives are not free to hold back love and intimacy from their spouse  vs 4

We need to work in our marriage to cultivate and maintain our emotional oneness.

1. Forgive and forget (Eph 4:26).

2. Foster good communication.

3. Nurture your relationship; pursue love and romance.

The one exception, where a husband and wife could withhold from marital intimacy would be for a limited time of intentional prayer  vs 5

This is always mutually agreed upon, for a limited time, and for the purpose of being devoted to prayer.

After clarifying the Corinthians’ poor conclusions on intimacy in marriage, Paul moves on in verse 6-9 to talk about the gift of singleness. 

Paul does not command singleness, but he does “wish” all were like him.

Paul didn’t have a low view of marriage, rather he knew singles could serve the church with a single-minded devotion.

How do you discern the gift of singleness?

vs 9 “…For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

If you have a strong desire to marry you probably don’t have the gift to be single.

Singleness isn’t a problem to solve nor a situation that needs attention; rather it is a gift of God’s grace.

God gives good gifts with the intention that we will use them for the good of others, to build up one another in the church.

If God has gifted you to be single, He intends for you to use that gift for the common good and to build up the church. 

Wherever God has you, he has specifically gifted you to serve and please him. 

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.03.17

Is our thinking shaped by Christ?

 

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

 

Paul corrects their misuse of freedoms

1. Paul is probably quoting their words of defense in vs 12-13 

They were using their freedom from OT dietary law as cover for temple feasts involving prostitutes

v13 implies they were also pointing out that since the body dies, how it is used is unimportant

2. Paul corrects the starting place of their defense

Yes, we have freedoms in Christ, but our rights are never our starting place

God, and how we honor him is always our starting place (v12 what is “helpful”)

When we begin with our freedoms, they will “dominate” us (this includes activities we use for escape)

Whatever doesn’t place God in his rightful place, is trying to take that place

 3. Paul then corrects their view of our physical body

It’s true this body is corrupt and will pass away; but that is only half the story

v14 God raised Jesus’ body and He will raise ours!  God values this body He created

Great Commandment living calls for God to be first in all that we are – all the time

 

Paul brings in the implications of our union with Christ (vs15-20)

He gives 3 you-should-know statements flowing out of our union with Christ

God is always our starting place in life, and Jesus is our starting place with God

 1. You should know that you have been joined to Christ (v15)

This is why the gospel is so powerful and our confidence in it is so great

If you’re a member (part) of Christ, think how obscene it is to take part of Christ into sin

When God is not our starting place, we minimize the great truths we have in the gospel

2. You should know that sex has a covenant purpose (vs16-17)

The world doesn’t start with God, so sex and its implications are only viewed physically. God gave sex to build a unique oneness in marriage. Its effects are more than physical

Just as we become one flesh in marriage, we are now one spirit with the Lord. This makes sexual immorality especially corrupting to us. It abuses what has a spiritual purpose

3. You should know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (vs19-20)

When you engage in sin, you take the Holy Spirit with you

When God is not our starting place, we think that our sin is a personal issue. God says no! 

v19 “you are not your own” – you are responsible for you, but you are not in charge of you

v20 you were bought with a price” – God became flesh, died, and took the wrath we deserved, our debt is great

 

What can we learn from the attitudes in this passage that seem culturally foreign to us?

1. Cultures change, but their foundational motivations don’t

Every culture exalts itself, rather than God; only the church is cross-centered

Keep in mind chapters 1-2, the world’s view of wisdom is upside down

All thinking, attitudes and opinions, no matter how culturally common, must be sifted by Scripture

2. Any defense of sin requires foolish self-deception

We can easily look with distain on the Corinthian’s behavior and defenses

Yet, every sin in your life is just as indefensible (this includes sins of omission)

Every argument you use to minimize your sin is contorted and foolish

3. Paul gives us two unchanging actions of godliness

#1  v19“Flee sexual immorality” (and any other form of sin)

Recognize that sin is dangerous . . we must go in the opposite direction . . with urgency!

#2  v20 “Glorify God in your body”

We don’t “flee” aimlessly!   We have a direction and it’s toward the person of Christ!

To glorify not a vague idea, it’s specific actions of making God far above all

This includes glorifying him “in our body”. So let’s “do” what shows God that he is far above all!

THE LIFE WE NEVER EXPECTED

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Book Review by Debbie Huber

“The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children With Special Needs”

Knowing that I have a special interest and love for people with special needs, Kyle bought this book for me to read on my Kindle. As an occupational therapist I want to have a better understanding for the struggles of families with special needs. 

But this book is much more than what I expected. I believe that what the authors have to say will help all who read it have a better understanding of the goodness and dependability of God and His sovereignty over suffering. 

The authors, Andrew and Rachel Wilson, have two autistic children. The children were both meeting their normal developmental milestones until the age of three when their development started going in reverse. This is called regressive autism. Their challenges are many and they share their pain with raw honesty however this is not just a book about children with disabilities…

This is a book about God. 

I was expecting anecdotes about being parents of autistic children.  But in the midst of sharing difficulties and humor, the reader is pointed to the Gospel.  They share their journey to find that God is all sufficient through it all.

For example, the Wilson’s ongoing, earnest prayer is to get a full night’s sleep. That has not yet happened for them which is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Andrew says that “I think the greatest single challenge to my prayer life has been the fact that so many prayers for sleep have gone unanswered.”  But he has learned that even when we do not know why God is not answering our prayer, we can still trust him and be thankful. 

Andrew was having a particularly frustrating and angry evening while praying for healing for his children and feeling that nothing was changing.  Not knowing where to go in prayer he started to pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

“I talked to God and meandered through parts of the Lord’s Prayer I had never seen that way before.  God heard me. I heard God.” He says, “I remember… that praying for healing and blessing at this point, after spending a while responding to God’s love, knowledge, glory, and beauty, meant that my prayers for the children were framed in a right attitude of trust and security, rather than a sofa-thumping anger and frustration.”

Their perspective of God’s grace is so encouraging.  Andrew and Rachel know that they have so much and deserve so little which brings them to a place of humility and gratitude. 

They have begun to notice even the smallest milestones or graces from God every day.  They have chosen to celebrate God’s grace in how much they have and how little they deserve so bitterness is rooted out and gratitude thrives. 

Sometimes we want to “redeem” the story, to write our own happy-ending, to glorify God in the way that WE think is best.  But God’s timing and His ways are often very different from ours. 

Rachel shares a lesson which stood out to me in a new way: 

“So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not.  I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good…(including)every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.”

I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to love and trust our God more. 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.28.17

Finding Joy in Something Bigger than Me

by Tim Shorey

 

Philippians 1:12-18

We experience life’s greatest joys when we share in its greatest realities. In our text we see 4 secrets to unquenchable joy

1. Joy comes from being a part of something bigger than ourselves v18

The source of his joy was something bigger than him—the gospel advance of the kingdom of God!

And his joy was great because his cause was great!

No prison or trial or possible death sentence or petty rivalry or the sinful selfish ways of others could quench the joy of his heart—it was way too big.

He was involved in and lost in something way bigger than he was—and so his joy was immense and unquenchable.

Friends, I think there is a pretty significant JOY-CRISIS going on among Christians today

(1)  Live life IN Christ

Philippians 4:4—“Rejoice IN the Lord always and again I will say, REJOICE!”

Rejoice in what it means to be in union with Jesus!

(2) Live life outside ourselves

The faith of too many is (in Os Guiness’s words) about “God servicing us, not us serving God!”

Life is simply happier if we live it outside ourselves!

The most miserable people on earth are the ones who can’t get themselves off themselves! They are totally self-absorbed!

Lose yourself in something bigger than yourself and you find joy!

If that is true at even a basic level—if joy comes in being part of something bigger than ourselves—than how might maximum joy come?

How might we receive the greatest joy possible?

By being a part of the biggest thing going!!

The gospel advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ!

Knowing God and helping others to know him too!!

 

2. What we are a part of is a partnership vs 3-7

Notice the gratitude and joy language!  Partnership made Paul happy!

Philippians is full of partnership and cooperation words and phrases

—ALL these point to Paul’s awareness that what we are a part of is a partnership! —and he wants US to share in it (Philippians 1:27)

The principle is clear in Scripture that Christians are always to be engaged in the mission in PARTNERSHIP with others—in a local church, under church leadership, alongside of other believers, in teams, side by side—AND in partnership and fellowship with other churches!

There are not to be any lone ranger Christians or even lone ranger churches…

The way of Christ is partnership in and through the local church—and through families and unions of churches…

And how blessed are such partnerships—EVEN if they are sometimes challenging!

 

3.  What we are a part of is more important than the part we play

Paul cared a lot more about what he was a part of than he did about the part he played

I’m not reading this into it—think about it!  What part was Paul playing at this time—by and large?

He had the part of prisoner.

He had the part of victim: people were taking advantage of his hardship.

He had the part of potential martyr!

For all he knew his best ministry days were over—and now it was prison time; serving where the lights were dim and few noticed.

Lots of others were getting the more noticed parts, the parts that people would be drawn to!

But Paul was not at all about making sure he got all the right and good parts for personal gain or ambition.

He cared about one thing: the advance of the gospel!

 Brothers and sisters: it’s NOT the position or the role or the prestige that matters…

…it’s the KING and his cause!  (Matthew 10:41-42)

 

4.  Jesus took the humblest part that we might have a part in gospel joy (Phil 2:3-8)

Jesus is our sacrifice and Jesus is our example

Jesus does ask us to lay life down for the gospel, but he does not ask us to do anything that He has not already done Himself

ALL this that we might have a part in it all!

We experience life’s greatest joy when we share in its greatest cause

CHURCH HUNTERS

This tongue-in-cheek video cleverly exposes many of the casual and self-centered attitudes our culture has toward church life.